Archive for the ‘Explaining SFA’ Category

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The Perfect Book

January 24, 2009

“This is why I’m not good at being witty in real life. I think I’m so clever that I start laughing before I finish what I’m saying.”

-JLY

It’s probably no secret that JLY and I both enjoy writing SFA quite a bit… That should probably be reward enough for toiling over our pages… But I do take great delight whenever I see on the forum or in an email that someone is enjoying reading our work.

On the other hand, it makes me sad, sometimes, to know that some people… okay, possibly a lot of people… aren’t going to like our book.

There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been elaborated on in various comments, and others that are simply reasons I know, reasons that keep me awake at night every now and then, wondering if we should have done things differently.

I should probably admit that this is in no small part my own fault. I’ve developed a bad habit of reading the Amazon reviews for other books. It’s oddly fascinating to read the 5-star reviews, and horribly terrifying to read the 1-star reviews. Even great books, amazing books that are given 5 stars by reviewer after reviewer can be ripped to shreds by a single scathing 1-star review. How can some people hate a book so passionately, and other people love it so entirely?

The answer, I think, is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s just that people have different tastes, different things they look for, different things they love and hate.

For example, with our story, I know there are going to be people who don’t like the pace, people who don’t like the characters, and people who don’t like the plot (or lack there of in the beginning). But I also know– or at least hope– that there will be people who love seeing the school before we launch into the story, people who delight in watching the simple stereotypes blossom into deeper characters, and people who read foreshadowing into the early events that prepared the way for the main plot.

Writing is about making choices, and those choices come with trade-offs. The trade-off to getting a big, fun cast is that you might lose people when you introduce so many new faces at once. The trade-off to spending time on bullies, social events, and all the high school details is that there’s less time for the epic fantasy elements. The trade-off for entertaining ourselves with funny jokes and twists is that we undercut the dramatic elements.

One of my friends recently read our story, and he commented that he was taken by surprise when everything in the ending started happening, since up until then, it’s a happy little story without much danger.

Part of that is intentional. We wanted the twists to come as a significant surprise, but the trade-off is that there’s less urgency early on. Wisteria having a bodyguard, for example, seems completely superfluous at first. Rakam comes off as a slacker tag-along set on annoying her and making an easy buck… But we all know how that one ends.

Ultimately, there are many different ways that we could have told our story… I strongly believe that the published version is much, much stronger than the draft that is on the website. Even so, sometimes I still wonder if we should have told it a different way…

But if writing is about trade-offs, then I think the best we can do is to write from the heart, and write what we love… Because there’s no such thing as a Perfect Book that everyone will love… There will always be people who like a book, and people who don’t. And if you write for someone else, for what you think other people will like, at best you’ll still end up displeasing some readers, and at worst your writing will ring false to your readers and to yourself as well. The best I think we writers can hope for is to write for ourselves, and if someone else happens to like it, then we can consider ourselves very, very lucky.

And on that subject, I have a confession.

If you couldn’t tell, last week’s post is one of my favorites. JLY and I have had this scene planned for quite some time, so we’ve been looking forward to finally getting here. We’ve debated for a while how we wanted to play this scene… Ultimately, we had had to do it this way… It was just too much fun.

There are a lot of different ways that this scene could have happened. Perhaps more dramatically, perhaps with more suspense. But here we are, and I happen to personally like it the way it is.

You see, here at SFA, we write because it’s fun. We wouldn’t be able to sit inside on a Friday night and write for hours if it weren’t fun. We can be serious when we need to be, but our default setting is ‘have a good time’. And I can imagine that a lot of our choices aren’t very traditional, or might be very different than how other writers would do it… But maybe (hopefully?) different can be a good thing?

So that’s my rambling for today, but before I go, my sincerest thanks to everyone like mjkj and Mary who has helped so far with The Great Tagging Project (I’m compulsively checking to see if we ever claim the #1 spot for “Young Adult Fantasy” or “Young Adult”), to everyone who has bought the book, and to each person who has posted a review–Generic Pen Name, Charvale, Aiden Naecea, G. DiStefano, Larry Liang, and Drucilla Shultz–you definitely made our day, week, month! I’m savoring the time while we have a 5-star rating, since I know it’s doomed to not last for long…

KL

Quote for the week:

JLY: We have option A and B.
KL: What should we do?
JLY: Well, ‘A’ sounds funny…
KL: Yeah, let’s do that. Like we usually do. Whatever personally amuses us.

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Reviews, Deadlines, New Favorite Hobbies.

September 10, 2008

First off, I really can’t thank everyone enough for joining the facebook group, posting comments, joining the tangler forum and overall reading the book. My new favorite hobby is checking to see who the new members of the facebook group are, and hoping we break 100 people. ^_^

Also, I’ll admit that every now and then JLY, KM Ricker, and I spend a couple of hours sorting through all of the places where fans have posted SFA links on forums, or mentioned it on blogs or profiles. It’s always a jolt of encouragement to see that someone out there has taken the time to share our story with other people. We really appreciate it!

So… along those lines, JLY and I have submitted our site to a couple of web fiction websites, so I wanted to let everyone know that you can now find a listing of our book at Pages Unbound and the Webfiction Guide. We’ve had so many thoughtful and amazing emails/comments that I thought I’d throw those two links out there to see if anyone would be interested in giving us a ranking/writing a review at one of those sites. (Who wouldn’t want to write a review for SFA? No one, presumably… Right? =D)

Anyway, apparently the only way JLY, KM Ricker, and I can manage to get anything done is to set some strict deadlines… The latest one we’ve set is to try to submit the manuscript to Booksurge by Sept 15th. Given how long the formatting, etc. takes, that should mean the book will be ready to buy in time for the holidays… Hopefully. So, as per usual, we’re scrambling to get everything done, tighten up anything that needs tightening, and add in all the scenes we think make sense to add.

As JLY and I have mentioned a bit, we’re planning on filling in Fell’s arc somewhat more completely, so you can look for a couple more Fell scenes in the first book. Honestly, one of the main reasons that Fell was neglected was the steady-progression nature of his character. Warriors take their lumps and grind through the first year, so that’s what Fell is doing… and unfortunately, that’s not particularly eventful, or plot-relevant… (We can really only have so many scenes where Fell gets beaten up again, right?) But, looking back, we did end up skipping over some parts… So, I can now definitely say that we’re going to round all of that out a little more, particularly the social side of Fell’s first year.

Other than that, just more of the same type of work that we’ve been talking about for the past couple months… the Fell additions are the last major thing on our list, along with a couple other scenes that need looking at… and, realistically, probably going over the entire thing one last time… But, after that! We can submit it! I feel like I’ve been saying that for awhile…

Anyway, I’m looking forward to submitting it, and finally really moving on to work full-on for book 2. We’ll keep you updated as we go along… With hope and much luck, the next time I post, I’ll be congratulating the SFA team on successfully submitting our book to Booksurge by September 15th. ^_^

KL

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8/8/08 and Thanks…

August 8, 2008

As we’re posting the beginning of book two, I want to take a minute to say thanks everyone who’s commented on the blog or sent us an email. I have to admit that there are days when JLY and I start to feel burned out, and hearing that there are people out there who like our story gives us the motivation to push ourselves to work harder, make the scenes better, and keep writing instead of taking a break to play Soul Calibur IV. ^_^*

You might have noticed that SFA doesn’t have any ads, anywhere. And, while we certainly wouldn’t mind someday making ridiculous amounts of money off of our writing, for now, we’re just writing for the love of telling the story. When we hear from readers, it makes the hard work worth it, and inspires us to keep at it. So, thanks to everyone for the emails and the blog comments. We appreciate it more than you know.

To answer Lana’s question (in a comment on the previous post), JLY, KM Ricker, and I have thought about self-publishing the novel, and we’re hoping to pick a publishing service and get a physical copy of the book out there in circulation. We spent part of the last month going through and editing the entire novel– adding some scenes, polishing some of the rough places, and (hopefully) catching all of the typos. If we do end up publishing it, I hope everyone picks up a copy!

But, in the meantime, if anyone out there enjoying the story would like a way to support us, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for you to tell a friend, or a couple of friends, or everyone you know, about SFA. ^_^

In other news, it’s 8/8/08, and that means that we’ve started posting the second book, which actually has a title, and a good one, at that–The Stolen Sword. It took JLY and I longer than I’d like to admit to come up with that title… Someday we’ll post up the outtakes, but probably when they’re no longer massive spoilers for the plot…

We’re starting off this book with a look at a few of the adventurers’ summers, and writing these prologues has been a lot of fun. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. While the big scenes that JLY and I write have more energy and more excitement, there’s something nice about stepping back, focusing on just one character, and meandering through his or her life, picking up details at random to examine.

Also, in scenes with more than one character, we usually don’t get to spend much time inside any one character’s thoughts, seeing how they see the world. It’s nice to have the freedom to ditch the neutral perspective once in a while and jump into a character’s perspective.

So, this week, it’s Fell. Next week you can catch a glimpse of Averi’s summer. Hope you enjoy it!

KL

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Averi’s Rune

December 27, 2007

I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but I like to believe that there are certain scenes in writing that you can’t help putting your heart into… The scenes that you see so clearly that it doesn’t matter if you have to feel your way around in the dark before and after them. These are, I suppose, the scenes that make it worth the trouble to write.

I’ll be the first to admit that SFA isn’t entirely planned out from start to finish, and that JLY and I are often surprised by the twists and turns that develop. But there are other parts that seem so intrinsically true and real that I can’t help believing in them.

For every chapter of SFA, there are a handful of scenes that feel this way. In particular, the plot twist of Averi’s Undead Rune always one of those scenes for me… a scene that anchored me in the SFA world.

Or maybe that sounds silly.

What I mean is that I loved that scene, and I hope it shows through in some small way.

When JLY and I started writing SFA, the story began as a few random clips of various characters. Delighted with the idea of a princess with an Undead Rune, I rushed through about 5 pages of scrambled draft-quality writing to get to this scene. Well, and a scene after it, but that’ll come much later.

For now, it’s enough to see that we’ve finally reached that scene and connected all the dots leading up to it.

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The Undead Rune

December 4, 2007

For anyone familiar with my fondness towards video games and action movies, it’s probably no surprise that my writing tends more towards action and less towards… everything else. And despite the fact that I’m well aware of how important “everything else” tends to be, I’ll confess that I usually grumble mutinously whenever JLY reminds me that we need more dialog or plot-related scenes and less senseless violence.

And I have to admit that Chapter 5: Nobility, was one that I grumbled particularly loudly about. Not that Nobility wasn’t a nice chapter. I understand the importance of it, and I enjoyed writing it, but not as much as, say Chapter 6: The Undead Rune, for reasons that I imagine will quickly become apparent.

Each chapter of SFA is made up of scenes written in two different ways. Most of the time, one of us will write the scene and send it to the other person for writing. Usually, we talk beforehand so we both know what the scene is basically about and how it fits into the chapter and the story as a whole. Even though we’ve gotten to the point where we know each other’s style (and the SFA style) well enough to blend the writing styles together, there’s still a different energy to the scenes.

However, SFA is also made up of a second type of writing. There are some scenes that JLY and I write together — sitting next to each other, taking turns typing and talking– and these always end up being my favorite. We have this remarkable tendency to keep each other in line… and not always, as you might expect, with myself as the advocate of action and JLY proposing more dialog.

Instead, it’s more a process of writing and refining. We both throw out rough ideas and then refine them. A typical writing session would hear something along the lines of:

“Something about how today is different than other days because… there’s a messenger. But make that pretty.”

Yes, we can come up with any string of incoherent half-thoughts and assume it makes complete sense as long as we conclude with make that pretty.

And now you know the secret of writing.

Well, at least the secret of writing SFA.

Take care,

KL

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Writing and “Declaration”

November 27, 2007

JLY and I somehow ended up talking today about how we write — a topic that comes up every now and then. JLY is a perfectionist at heart. By the time she sends me a scene for SFA, it’s polished and consistent and ready to post.

I work in the almost exact opposite way. I can dash off a scene relatively quickly and send it to JLY with little hesitation. Of course, it’s only after I send it that I see the grammar mistakes, inconsistencies, and, in some fun cases, blatant disregard for the names of our secondary characters—if Sariil is ever called Sarill, you can blame that squarely on me.

Overall, my writing is usually focused on action and plot, and my first drafts usually have little else. My second pass at a scene is just to fix all the obvious errors… hopefully before JLY finds them, so I can salvage some portion of my dignity.

The third pass is where I actually make the deeper changes. Usually, I only change a handful of sentences, and leave the rest alone, though there are some troublesome cases where I have to do major rewriting.

Writing Declaration, for instance, was surprisingly difficult. After Rai’s warning to Averi, and all that build up, I felt that this scene had more pressure on it than most. The point of this scene is that Averi is usually holding back–and this is what happens when she really uses her position and social skills to benefit herself. So it had to really show that Averi is capable of one-upping Annalise and playing the social game.

Unfortunately, my usual way of showing conflict– a fist-fight–didn’t seem too appropriate for Annalise and Averi. Instead, they play a more delicate game of undermining each other, and in this case, Averi wins, although perhaps the importance of her win isn’t as immediately apparent as, say, trying to take Annalise on in a sparring ring. However, having a rebellion questioning her supremacy of the group is probably the worst retribution anyone could inflict on Annalise Emberlynn.

Thanks for reading,

KL

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The Forum for Adventurers

November 19, 2007

Today JLY and I set up the School for Adventurers Forum, which we have decided to call the Forum for Adventurers! Well, we thought it was funny, at any rate. So, if you feel like talking about the plot, characters, or anything else having to do with SFA, join the forum and share your thoughts.

Take care,

KL